Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 72 (4) November 2022

Book Review

Bioethics For Nurses. A Christian Moral Vision
by Alisha N. Mack, DNP and Charles C. Camosy, PhD.
William B Eerdmans Publishing Company

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Book CoverI found this to be a really helpful resource. Alisha Mack is an evangelical Protestant and Charles Camosy is Catholic. Although there are very real differences between the two denominations, this book reminds us that we have a lot in common and perhaps especially so in the field of Christian ethics.

In their desire to treat the patient in a holistic way, the authors examine a variety of topics including the priority of care for underserved people and conscience protection for Christian nurses. This latter topic is increasingly important and is really well presented in this book.

What I especially liked is the way case histories are used throughout to discuss ethical issues. This makes the book an easy read for the busy healthcare professional.

One expects the authors to agree on most issues. But what about the controversial ones? Abortion, for instance? What the authors write is in harmony with Christian thinking down the ages. The authors look at the case of a woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. She has a right not to be pregnant. But the unborn child also has a right: a right not to be intentionally killed. These rights are not equal. Staying alive is a more precious and basic right compared to the right not to be pregnant.

The authors also discuss the most famous article ever written on abortion, that by Judith Jarvis Thomson written back in the seventies. The article involves a thought experiment about a person who wakes up to find herself attached to a famous violinist. Without this attachment for a period of time, the violinist will die. The person certainly had a right not to have this forced on her. The only reasonable analogy would be becoming pregnant following rape. The thought experiment does not work for over 98% of abortions. The authors also note that abortion is a direct act of killing. It is not a nonviolent removal of someone from one's body. 

The chapter on euthanasia and assisted suicide is also completely sound. The authors note that there are moral acts that are always wrong no matter the outcome. A person cannot be intentionally killed in order to end suffering. The authors write that a "slippery slope" would lead to the normalisation of euthanasia. We see this happening in countries like Canada right now.

In summary, this is an excellent resource for Christian nurses and others in healthcare.